If you don’t know Paul Nicklen and Cristina Mittermeier, your day is about to get a whole lot better. These National Geographic photographers are the creative minds behind SeaLegacy, a Canadian-based nonprofit focused on the conservation of our oceans. However, this is not any old non-profit. This dream team sets out into the wilderness for months at a time to capture the beauty of nature and the threats facing our oceans. They use their photography to spread awareness of ocean conservation and to educate the community on how to make a difference. SeaLegacy also funds inspiring projects around the world to save our oceans and its wildlife.
And if that still doesn’t catch your attention, maybe Nicklen’s near-death-experience with a male elephant seal during mating season will. Or perhaps the time he was fed penguins by a leopard seal in Antarctica. Or his infamous footage of the emaciated Canadian polar bear searching for food in trash cans. Take your pick, and I guarantee you will come to love this organization as much as I do.
As impressive as Nicklen and Mittermeier are, the real stars of the photos are not the people behind the camera but the wildlife itself. SeaLegacy advocates for the animals and calls for people to “turn the tide for our oceans” through their #19for2019 campaign. The campaign promotes 19 resolutions to practice throughout 2019 in order to protect the environment, including:
- Be an advocate for renewable energy
For those who use Austin Energy as their energy supplier, GreenChoice is an easy, click-of-the-button option to support renewable energy. When residents choose GreenChoice, they choose to use 100% renewable Texas wind energy, supporting Texas wind farms and the environment. This comes at an extra cost of $7.50 per month, but doing so reduces air pollution, carbon emission and water usage.
For those interested in doing a bit more, Austin Energy also offers community solar energy from the solar panels on the Palmer Events Center for those who rent homes and tax incentives when you invest in solar energy for your individual home.
- Reduce your meat and dairy consumption
Even if you don’t cut out meat and dairy entirely, you can still make a difference in carbon emissions by reducing your meat and dairy intake. Meatless Mondays or smaller portions sizes add up to making a huge difference. It’s all about making a conscious effort.
- Say no to single-use plastics
Avoid using plastic straws, plastic water bottles, coffee cups with plastic lining and plastic lids (aka Starbucks cups and lids), plastic bags, plastic produce bags, plastic take-out containers, plastic wrap, plastic cutlery, plastic party cups, plastic six pack soda rings, and plastic packaged food. Instead, invest in reusable versions or biodegradable versions. Learn more.
- Exercise your right to vote in favor of candidates who support climate action and conservation
It’s not election season right now, but you should inform yourself of local and national candidate agendas when it is. Until then, you can find information on the City of Austin Environmental Commission here.
- Be energy conscious in your daily life
Switch to compact fluorescent lights or LEDs which use 25-80% less electricity, turn off lights and unplug appliances when not using them, walk or bike short-distances, take shorter showers, etc. You know the drill— just do it.
- Be mindful when it comes to gift-giving
Choose to gift sustainably-sourced products or experiences rather than products that harm the environment. Better yet, donate to a non-profit. Brands like Bayou With Love use gold from recycled Dell motherboards and ethically-sourced jewelry to make jewelry.
- Pledge to stop eating Atlantic farmed salmon
The Pacific wild salmon population is being destroyed by disease found in most open-net farmed salmon. The waste from these fish farms is also destroying rare species of sea sponges. These consequences will eventually impact bears, orcas, sea lions and humans, all who depend on wild salmon and their ecosystems. Pledge to #KnowYourSalmon and choose wild here.
- Boycott tourism in Iceland
Iceland still supports local whale hunting. In 2018 alone, their hunting killed 146 whales. It is a single company who kills whales for their meat to ship to Japan. The whale meat then sits up to a year in freezers, as there is no demand for the meat. It’s senseless killing. Petition to #StopTheHunt here.
- Get outside, explore and connect with our oceans
Easier said than done here in Austin. Nevertheless, getting outside is what matters, and if it’s the water that speaks to your soul, take some time to visit Lady Bird Lake, Lake Austin or Lake Travis.
- Participate in beach clean-ups
Keep Austin Beautiful has regular clean-ups at Lady Bird Lake and other locations. Learn more here.
- Your voice matters, so make it heard by signing petitions, spreading awareness and making donations
Sign the petition to #StopTheHunt and share this article to spread awareness. Follow @SeaLegacy on Instagram. Educate yourself and help educate others. The environment can’t save itself.
- Separate your recycling, garbage and compost
It takes a little more time, but it has to be done.
- Support local ecotourism practices and companies when traveling
- Understand that conservation takes time
Just because you can’t see the effects of your daily recycling efforts in your fight against ocean pollution doesn’t mean it has no effect. Fight the good fight, and be patient in your efforts. It takes time to save the world.
- Plant more trees
You can volunteer with TreeFolks to plant some trees in Austin. If your volunteer schedule is already booked, you can always donate to re-forest the Amazon and other forests with OneTreePlanted and other like-minded organizations.
- Find your community
Together we can accomplish anything. Whether you decide to join Austin’s Environmental Commission because policy is your thing, Tree Folks or Austin Parks Foundation to be one with nature, Austin Pets Alive! to cuddle with some puppies, or SeaLegacy’s “The Tide” if the online community is more your thing, you are contributing to something bigger than yourself, and that is invaluable.
- Take the United Nation’s Global Survey on Sustainability
The UN is working towards 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Do your part and take the survey.
- Respect wildlife and wildlife habitat
Be respectful of the planet. Throw away your trash and pick up the trash others were too careless to throw away themselves. Be kind to animals and their homes. Each creature has a role in the overall sustainability of the planet, and we must do our best not to further disrupt it, lest we risk our own place in the food chain.
- Help science happen
Let your curiosity free! There are so many things to learn and so many places to see. If you can’t see the world, the next best thing you can do is read about it. And if you care enough, you can support the scientists who dedicate their lives so that we may understand more about the world around us. We live on a beautiful blue planet in the middle of an ocean of stars. Let’s take care of it, together.